Diet ready to pass ¥96 trillion budget

Kyodo

The Diet was ready to pass a fiscal 2014 budget on Thursday worth a record ¥95.88 trillion and aimed at cushioning the negative impact of the April 1 sales tax hike.

Lawmakers said Wednesday that the Upper House would pass the budget late Thursday on the strength of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, New Komeito.

The budget, for the fiscal year that starts April 1, was endorsed by the more powerful Lower House late last month.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s LDP and New Komeito have strove to secure passage of the budget by the end of this month to make usre it’s in place April 1, when the consumption tax will be raised to 8 percent from the current 5 percent.

The budget contains measures to prevent the tax hike from significantly hurting the nascent economic recovery, including by boosting public works projects that the government sees as having an immediate effect on the economy.

Spending on public works will rise for the second straight year to about ¥6 trillion.

Social security costs, including ballooning spending on pensions and medical costs, will top ¥30 trillion for the first time due to the graying of the population. Defense spending will climb for the second consecutive year, reaching about ¥5 trillion, as Japan moves to strengthen surveillance of surrounding waters amid the territorial row with China.